When studying for exams it’s good to know whether you’re a big chunk learner or small.
So how do you know? Well, some students study better when they spend large chunks of time learning and revising. If that’s you, you need time to get into the groove and really settle into your study flow. This means you could spend the whole day or an entire weekend deeply engrossed in revision.
If you find it hard to knuckle down to revision try studying in small chunks. Set the timer on your phone and start by revising in 20-minute chunks when the alarm goes off change your activity for at least 5 minutes. Get up and stretch. Go and get a drink. Play with the dog! Then go back to revising, obviously if you’re on a roll and studying well, skip the break and continue on for the next 20-minute chunk.
There’s something about having a choice that feels empowering so you’re more likely to get on with it and the variety keeps the intellect sharp.
2) Get Your Surroundings Right
It’s important to know what will facilitate a comfortable study environment for you.
Be honest with yourself, do you really study at your best with music in the background? If so, great and whether that’s funk, baroque or dolphin music if it works for you use it. On the other hand, you may require complete silence in order to properly concentrate.
Does it help if you have a blank wall in front of you or do you work better when you can see some sky or the garden? Set yourself up in a nice space to get the best out of yourself.
3) If you fail to plan you plan to fail
Whatever your style and aids, it’s essential to create a study schedule.
If nothing has been provided for you, create a basic schedule by dividing the subjects you’re studying between the days/hours available between now and the exams.
Ask your favourite teacher to help you develop a system of revision.
Find the cleverest person you know and pick their brains to find out how they revise, what’s their approach, when, how and where do they study? Keep asking them questions until you illicit their revision strategy – then make it your own.
4) Develop Concentration
If you’re really struggling to concentrate, practice balancing. I’m serious it will develop your ability to concentrate! Set your gaze softly on something in the distance and lift one foot. Keep it in the air and focus on slow easy breathing in and out of your nose. Once you’re able to balance stay there for a minute or so before changing to the other foot. This will settle your breathing and calm your thoughts down. Then you can begin to study again.
5) On The Day of Your Exams
Aim to be early and be prepared. Have your bag and any items that you might need.
Plan a good routine for the day. It might sound daft but it’s important to know exactly where you’re going. It has been known for people to go to the wrong place, out of sheer panic! Not you though. If you have to travel to your place of exam, do a dummy run a week before if necessary. Give yourself as much chance as possible to feel confident.
Even planning exactly what you’re going to wear so that you’re in charge of your own temperature will give you a sense of control (Layers are good).
6) Remember there are things you can do in the moment to relieve stress
If your head feels fuzzy, or your chest tight, there’s a couple things you need:
Water: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Sipping room temperature water will keep you feeling buoyant and less tired.
Breath: If you’re not breathing properly and everything feels contracted and restricted, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your head, your chest or your stomach, a good deep breath will help you to relax. Rather than get caught up in breathing exercises try this. Hum. That’s it, just hum … for as long as you can. At the end of it, you will need to take a slighter longer deeper in-breath so make your humming as long as possible. Don’t just take my word for it, try it now.
7) Dealing with Negative Thoughts
Finally, how do you deal with the negative thoughts? If you have genuinely given it your best shot and have studied and revised to the best of your ability. That is all you can do. The ego part of the brain, however, does love to judge, label, taunt, and generally give you a hard time. You may hear it as a nagging, critical voice or as dark negative suggestions. It is your mind at play and you can stop the negativity. Here are a few ways. Mentally and silently shout at this voice/words say something like ‘stop! That’s enough’ or ‘be quiet now’ or even, ‘go away you’re not wanted here’ will work. It’s a simple but effective method and it works better the more you practice it.
Follow it up with positive future placed suggestions such as, ‘I am relaxed and at ease. On the day of my exams, my recall is sharp and clear and I find it easy to remember all the information relating to…blah blah.’ Or ‘throughout my exams I am relaxed, calm and confident, my mind is clear and my recall excellent.’
Leading up to the exams tell yourself everyday ‘as my exams get nearer I feel more confident and self-assured.’ Interestingly your back-of-the-mind-brain absorbs whatever thoughts you feed it.
Do you want to entertain negative thoughts or create positive ones? The choice is yours.
You will do well if you think you will, it’s all in the mind!
How do you feel about your body? What do you think when you look at yourself in the mirror or picture yourself in your mind’s eye? Positive or negative, your body image will likely have an impact on your self-esteem. And for many people that can also affect their mental health leading to issues such as depression, obsessional thinking and eating disorders to name just a few.
Where does your body image come from?
Our body image can be based upon our past experiences. For example, the child who was called chubby by an aunt may grow into an adult who still believes that they are overweight. That person may fear being judged as it stirs up the feelings of the hurt child.
Body image perceptions can also be based upon comparisons we make with other people. As human beings we naturally compare ourselves with others, constantly evaluating our place in this world. This helps us to understand how we should look, feel and act, providing relief from anxiety about being different. The difficulty arises when we choose to compare ourselves to the unrealistic images that are often portrayed in the media.
Images in magazines, on social media or television may be filtered, airbrushed and focused on unrealistic body size or shape. They can easily set unrealistic expectations of how we should look. Many people are aware that these pictures do not provide an accurate representation for comparison but can’t help doing so. This is particularly true for people who already have a negative body image.
For example, if someone believes they are overweight, their mind may unconsciously become preoccupied with actively looking for evidence suggesting everyone else weighs less and discard any evidence suggesting they are a healthy weight. People with an eating disorder may even discard evidence that they are significantly and dangerously underweight.
Psychotherapy can help
Psychotherapy provides a safe environment to challenge any negative beliefs people hold about their body, and help them take a more compassionate view of themselves. But that’s only one part of the therapy. It is essential to try and understand the emotional distress that has led them to judging their looks and appearance in such a critical manner. If we ignore these underlying reasons it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns of behaviour.
If someone is unhappy with an aspect of their body, their mind may chose this aspect to fixate on as a solution for something else. I often hear people say, ‘I will be happy when I lose X amount of weight’ or ‘I will be happy when I have a cosmetic procedure’. The problem is that they could lose the weight or have the cosmetic operation and the underlying distress remains, which could lead to them setting a goal to lose more weight or have another invasive operation. So as a clinician the therapeutic work does not stop when we help someone appears to view their body in a better light, we also need to provide understanding and attention to the underlying distress that the person has potentially been facing.
Six tips for improving your body image
I am often asked what people can do to improve the way they view their body, some tips that I often recommend is to:
Understand just how great your body is, instead of focusing on what we don’t like, spend time thinking about what we do like.
Start to identify what can trigger us to feel bad about our bodies. Notice when we start to feel negative about ourselves. When did this occur? Could it be reading specific social media that leads us to feel bad that we don’t look a certain way or could it be a specific person who seems to say something that we take as critical or just makes us feel bad. By becoming increasingly aware of these situations it can help us to make a conscious choice whether we want to put ourselves into that situation or not.
Realise you don’t know what someone’s inner world is really like. From my experience many people whose online lives paint a picture of pure bliss struggle with the same worries that we all do.
Become aware of the language you use and challenge it if necessary. If you realise when you are talking about your body that you are using words such as ‘should’ and ‘must’ you may be doing yourself some harm. For example, if you hear yourself say ‘I should be a size 10’ or ‘I should have a six pack’ understand you are probably placing an unrealistic expectation on yourself.
Ask yourself what you like about your best friend, usually people do not mention they like their friend because of their looks, it is typically about how they are a good friend, are funny or trustworthy. This can help to realise what areas of our lives we should be placing importance on.
If you hear yourself saying something critical about your body, ask yourself if you would say this about anyone else. In my career I have asked that question hundreds of times and not one person has ever said ‘yes’, they have always said ‘no’ followed a statement such as ‘because that would be mean’. So, if you hear yourself saying something overly critical about yourself ask why you would say such horrible things about yourself when you wouldn’t dream of saying that about anyone else.
Body image requires significant attention within the psychotherapeutic encounter, but I strongly believe that it is essential to keep an eye open for other areas that may be causing the person to feel unhappy.
If you enjoyed this blog then you can also Listen to our podcast where we spoke to Dr Christian Buckland to find out how to become more body positive.
Some people thrive in the winter months, with celebrations and the start of a new year full of possibilities and resolutions. But for others it can bring feelings of isolation, obligation, pressure, lack of routine and the unknown.
Three UKCP therapists have given us their advice for coping with the winter months. You can find out more about these therapists and more by clicking on their name and others by clicking here.
Whether you love winter or dread it, there’s something you can do to help yourself or talk to others about.
If you have lost someone try remembering them in a special way. Do something you know you both would have enjoyed together. Don’t say goodbye say hello and remember the way they made you feel about you.
Remember that this period will soon be over and how you remember it will be up to you. Having a duvet day; doing something for someone else by volunteering or giving someone a call; watching old movies – you choose but make it something meaningful for you.
Keep expectations in check. Nothing is perfect – people may be ratty with too much good food and wine slowing them down. Make sure you make your Christmas special and let everyone else do the same.
Don’t believe the myth that everyone is enjoying themselves – some peoples coping mechanism is to look like they are enjoying themselves.
If someone is disappointed this Christmas – tell them you love them. It is free!
If you get caught in cycles of negative thinking/emotions, set an amount of time to allow them to come, and then actively switch gear, move away from them, and go and do something enjoyable, engaging, and pleasurable.
Could you replicate something you used to enjoy in childhood that really absorbed you, or helped you to cope in challenging times?
What words of comfort or support would you most like to hear from a friendly voice? Put your hand on your chest and soothingly tell them to yourself. Don’t abandon yourself in these moments.
Try interrupting the urge to be self-destructive with something else until it passes – e.g. counting backwards from 100, messaging a friend, watching something funny online.
If you start to feel as if you can’t cope, take a moment to stand still, and imagine powerful roots flowing down from your feet and into the ground, and remind yourself of all the times you have coped in the past.
If you struggle with flashbacks, take a moment to ground yourself in the present moment by listing 5 things you can currently see, hear and touch. Repeat until it passes.
The first week in December is Anger Awareness Week and UKCP member Lindsay Percival looks at the upsides as well as the downsides of this basic human emotion.
It is normal and healthy to feel angry from time to time, getting worked up is not a sign that there is anything wrong or that there is an underlying mental health problem. It can become a problem, though, when reactions are inappropriate, out-of-control, or prolonged. Shouting, screaming, hitting, punching, kicking or throwing things around, for example, at work, at home, on a train or bus, in the supermarket, behind the car wheel or in the classroom, can cause situations to escalate, damage to property and relationships, and lead to loss of jobs, marriages and school places. Uncontrolled anger is behind domestic violence and the rise in street crime with 2018 being the fourth worst year on record for knife crime among under-20s in England and Wales.
With all this in mind, Anger Awareness Week aims to draw attention to anger as a disturbing social issue and help people find healthier ways to express their intense feelings without hurting or harming themselves or others.
In its essence anger is a natural survival response that helps get us out of danger. When we are threatened or attacked anger triggers our fight or flight response, helping us defend ourselves effectively or run away. It causes the body to release adrenaline, muscles to tighten and the heart rate and blood pressure to increase.
A lot depends on your personal history as to how you react when triggered. If you weren’t taught how to express anger appropriately you might ruminate on your problems and make yourself miserable and depressed or you might store it up and explode like a volcano.
Everyone has their own triggers for anger. Here are some common things that could cause you to see red:
alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, stress and hunger
feeling unappreciated, unloved or disrespected in some way
unresolved trauma leaving your nervous system easily aroused
loss of a loved one, home, job or pet
underlying medical conditions, illness or injuries
mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or personality disorders.
Pent up anger can hurt others if you tend to lash out physically or verbally. There is also evidence that you could be hurting yourself. Anger and hostility is linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and peptic ulcers. It is also linked to inflammation and an increase in chronic pain.
On the other hand, anger can be helpful in many ways:
It helps you to set boundaries with people or situations, to say no to things that aren’t right for you. If it feels wrong and makes you angry trust your instincts, it probably is. Rather than destroying relationships it helps strengthen them by setting limits and staying true to your needs.
Anger helps you know when you are really stretched and need to take a break. It is also a sign of burnout and means you need to slow down and take care of yourself.
Anger helps you get things done. If you are feeling angry that the world is an unfair or unjust place and you hate your company, your boss and the people you work with, use it to gain clarity, make changes and find out what you really want to do with your life.
Anger is linked to passion, creativity, drive and sexuality. In essence it’s energy and it’s neither good nor bad. It’s about how you channel that energy that really matters.
If you need help learning how to use anger constructively, to state your needs and concerns clearly and directly without hurting others you could consider getting the professional help of a psychotherapist or psychotherapeutic counsellor.
UKCP is working with MPs such as Johnny Mercer to underline our profession’s role in addressing the mental health crisis. He explains why the issue is high priority.
There’s no doubt that the national conversation around mental health is increasing in volume. With Theresa May last year launching an independent review of mental health provision and recent high-profile campaigns backed by Princes William and Harry, our profession’s voice must also be heard.
As the voice for psychotherapists in the UK, we are working with MPs to set the agenda on therapy. We want to expand and develop the psychological therapy treatments available to patients, while also identifying cost savings to the public purse – a goal shared by Johnny Mercer, Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View. Among other roles, Mercer is Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Mental Health and a member of the Health and Social Care Committee. ‘I’m interested in redesigning health care,’ he says. ‘If we can treat people with mental health problems earlier using talking therapies, the cost is much lower, but the chance of them getting better is higher.’
One example of our policy work is our response to the draft National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guideline for Depression in Adults. UKCP has serious concerns about NICE’s flawed methodology and lack of commitment to patient choice. A meeting with NICE representatives resulted in an unprecedented second consultation on the Guideline. Since the consultation ended, we have worked with a coalition of organisations opposed to the Guideline, with the UKCP Policy Team playing a critical role in lobbying MPs and Peers. This resulted in a letter co-signed by 31 MPs and Peers outlining their fears about the Guideline. As well as Mercer, signatories included Norman Lamb, former Minister for Mental Health, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Committee, and Luciana Berger, former Shadow Mental Health Minister.
UKCP believes all key decision-makers in government, parliament and other public bodies responsible for health policy need a clear understanding of the effectiveness and economic value of talking therapies. To this end, we have linked up with seven other leading psychotherapy and counselling organisations to form the Talking Therapies Taskforce. Together, we aim to set out the economic case for talking therapies, create a national system to collect data on its efficacy, and formulate a workforce development plan and associated training programme – all evidenced by large quantities of NHS data.
Taking the issue to parliament
As part of our long-term plan to bring the issue of talking therapies to parliamentarians, we want to ensure cross-party support for our campaigns. A vocal proponent of improving mental health support provision, Johnny Mercer is a firm believer in talking therapies – an advocacy born from personal experience, both in his formative years and as an ex-army captain. As a boy, Mercer had obsessive compulsive disorder. ‘It dominated my life,’ he says. ‘I had a horrible time, and I think that if more people talked openly then about mental health, it would have helped me enormously.’
Although the conversation around mental health has got a lot better, much still needs to be done, believes Mercer. ‘We still have some way to go in defining what it means for sufferers, looking at how to keep people well, and making sure that people – particularly men – don’t have to be extremely poorly to access treatment.’
Mercer was recently struck by the lack of men at a meeting of the APPG on mental health, which regularly calls on government ministers, NHS organisations, health professionals, research bodies and people with experience of mental illness to give evidence. ‘I was the only man there and yet there is a huge issue around masculinity.’ Despite encouraging recent statistics, suicide remains the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
Masculinity and mental health
As a society, we are increasingly examining and rejecting notions of ‘toxic masculinity’, in which men feel they must conform to repressive and aggressive ideals of what it means to be a man – and Mercer sympathises with this. ‘The whole culture around masculinity needs to change. I see people who do things they think are masculine, yet those things are at odds with what I see as masculinity; it is an inner strength, rather than an outer strength that’s on view for everyone to see.’
Through his time in the army, Mercer has direct experience of a traditionally masculine environment. He joined in 2001 at the age of 20. ‘I have seven brothers and sisters and four of us ended up serving. It was an opportunity to see the world, make friends and have a good time. But in the back of your mind you always know that you may have to go into conflict.’
Mercer was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and 2008–2010. Aspects of serving in a conflict were mentally challenging, he says. ‘The basics around warfare don’t change – being frightened, having to show courage, having to lead people. My number two guy was killed and that was really tough. You just get on with it and deal with it later. For some people, that may be when they get home and for others, for example, those who struggle with PTSD, it could be years later.’
Although mental health care is improving all the time for veterans, more needs to be done, he says. ‘When I was in the army, Trauma Risk Management – where you could go to talk about mental health – wasn’t taken seriously. Times have changed – there are people in our military psychiatric units who do an incredible job – but there is still some way to go.’
Searching for role models
Closer to home, Mercer is working hard to improve the mental health of his own constituents. The lack of male role models in his constituency concerns him. ‘I was struck by statistics about young people growing up in homes in Plymouth where there is no father figure. Their role models are only in the media or online. That is a big problem, because people only see the best side. A lot of our young people, men in particular, are missing out on seeing that it’s okay to have a bad day, and to talk about how you’re feeling.
‘I can’t over-emphasise the role of social media in changing our society,’ he continues. ‘What happens online for younger people can completely define their day – even who they are as an individual. You see tragic cases of people taking their own lives from cyber bullying. If we work harder on mental health and wellbeing that will change.’
Mercer is calling for a more joined-up approach to mental health; one that encompasses the economic and social structures of society. ‘We need to reconfigure how we look at wellbeing – it includes things like having a job, good housing and social networks,’ he says. ‘Yes, we try to tackle these problems in isolation, but no one talks about how they affect mental health. I think that’s the key to changing understanding.’
So where do anti-depressants fit into this picture? As part of the UKCP’s work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prescribed Drug Dependence, we are creating a guidance document for therapists working with users of prescribed drugs. This project will help to raise awareness of the alarming growth in the UK of prescribed drug dependence, and a big part of the solution is securing better public access to talking therapies. Mercer, for one, is wary of the over-medicalisation of mental health treatment: ‘It’s about preventing people thinking that, when they have a mental health problem, there is simply a medical, pills-based solution to how they feel – which is largely what people expect from their doctor,’ he says. ‘This fundamentally misunderstands the issues around mental health. Yes, there is an aspect to it that you can address by taking medication. However, we need to tackle the root causes of what is giving you that anxiety. What is stopping you sleeping? What is causing your depression? We talk about a parity of esteem between mental and physical health – that’s more than just a sentence. It has to mean something.’
Mercer is also clear on the importance of early intervention to address mental health problems. ‘That is the game changer. It saves providers money and the chances of patients getting better are so much greater.’
By working with Mercer and other MPs, UKCP is determined to ensure that talking therapies form a vital part of this early intervention. Watch this space for updates on our campaigns as we take our mission – and the voices of our members – to parliament.
This article was originally published in the autumn edition of the New Psychotherapist. You can read the rest of the magazine here.
Across the country, celebrations for Halloween are in full swing. Children and adults alike dressed as ghosts, skeletons, wizards and an array of other terrifying figures, all intended in good fun. The trouble is, it isn’t fun for everyone. The phobia of Halloween actually has a name – Samhainophobia – and it is perhaps understandable since Halloween is the festival of the dead. Samhainophobia can be very difficult, because it is usually an unconscious fear, despite you consciously understanding that you are not actually in danger. Added to this, many related fears and phobias can also be triggered by Halloween traditions, for example fears of ghosts, masks and costumes, witchcraft, darkness, demons, and death itself.
It can be helpful to know where Halloween comes from. The ancient Celts held a ceremony called Samhain in order to mark the transition between summer and winter. Samhuin means summer’s end, and was celebrated on 1st November, with festivities beginning at sunset on the 31st October. This traditional New Year celebration involved large bonfires, and the burning of crops and livestock to give thanks and to honour the dead. Masks and costumes were worn to ward off bad spirits and prevent them causing trouble and hardship. So, the scary costumes had a protective function.
Coping with the fear
So what can you do if your fears are at risk of overwhelming you this year? This close to the day it’s a case of soothing and managing your reactions in the moment. You may want to be pro-active, and do things that you find relaxing to help yourself be in the calmest possible place. You could also enlist support from someone you trust to help you to feel safe if you anticipate it being difficult.
If you do get triggered, there are a number of things you can do. First of all, acknowledge how you feel. Say it out loud – ‘I am scared’ or whatever is true for you. It’s important not to get angry or contemptuous with yourself, anxiety and fear are real, and they hurt, and denying or minimising this will just make it worse.
Next, take action to help your body to calm. You might breathe deeply, and looking up, away from your body, to help you to cope through the worst of any physical panic reactions. You could tap slowly on alternate sides of your body to stimulate the part of your nervous system that calms you down. You could wrap your arms around yourself to contain your body and help it to feel held (or ask for a hug if someone else is with you).
You may also want to soothe yourself with words, reminding yourself that this will pass, and that you are safe, and that you will keep yourself safe. After all, there is likely a young part of you that is suffering this fear, if you can keep your more resourceful parts in awareness you may be able to take care of this scared part of yourself in the moment.
Looking forwards to next year, it may well be useful to seek out a psychotherapist to help you understand your symptoms, and to find together ways to bring them to an end. A psychotherapist can help you to make sense of what is happening and to lessen the grip of your fears, and can support you in finding ways to desensitize yourself to what has troubled you until now. Why not search UKCP’s Find a Therapist for someone local to you who can offer support?
Fe Robinson is a psychotherapist, EMDR therapist, couples counsellor and clinical supervisor working with private clients. Find Fe online here.
Surf instructor, Sam Schumacher, said: ‘This visit will really raise the profile of what we are trying to do and the fact that mental health doesn’t discriminate.’
Founder of OneWae, Grant Trebilco, who previously struggled with his mental health, before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said: ‘They were so engaging, they had time for everyone and really felt part of the One Wave community.’
Today is World Mental Health Day – an opportunity for people around the world to reflect on the importance of mental health issues and how they are being tackled.
Here in the UK, the government is marking the occasion by hosting a two-day summit for ministers and delegates from over 50 countries. The stated aim of this is to promote parity of esteem – equality between physical and mental health.
In advance of the event, recently-appointed Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: ‘The world must unite and take this opportunity to deliver parity for mental health so it is treated the same as physical health.’
This is, of course, a welcome ambition. So too is the idea of international cooperation helping to bring about positive change.
However, given the extent of the government’s rhetorical commitment to parity of esteem, this seems an appropriate moment to scrutinise the government’s actions on this matter. And the chastening reality is that there is still a huge way to go for genuine parity of esteem to be reached in our publicly administered health services.
The reality is much of the money earmarked for mental health isn’t reaching the frontline. That’s why it must be protected by ringfending. With CCGs still under huge financial pressure, it is likely that unprotected funding will continue to be diverted in order to balance local budgets.
The benefits of investment
Investment in mental health services carries huge financial benefits, not just for the public purse but for the economy as a whole. However, it is hard to see that this is in the thinking of decision makers in government and local commissioners across the country.
What they don’t seem to recognise is that investment in mental health services would save money across all corners of public provision – elsewhere in the NHS, in social care, a range of local authority services, the Department for Work and Pensions, the police, the Criminal Justice system – not to mention the revenue generated through greater productivity in the economy.
Nevertheless, in the absence of ringfenced funds, it is perhaps understandable that hard pressed CCGs are unwilling to make investment in services for savings that will fall largely outside of their remit.
Joined up thinking
This hard truth is indicative of the broad need for more joined up thinking about mental health at both the government and local level.
That could include support from the government for Luciana Berger MP’s Health in All Policies Bill, which would not only help to address shortfalls in provision but also help to shift the focus towards prevention.
However, in the immediate future, at least let’s ensure that, at a minimum, money designated for mental health reaches the frontline – and the only way to do that is through ringfencing. With demand for mental health services continuing to rise, this is simply an essential step.
The future of psychotherapies in the public sector
If the government is serious about addressing the escalating mental health crisis in this country, it is essential that people can access a range of high-quality psychotherapies on the NHS. And securing greater funding for mental health services is of fundamental importance to the future of psychotherapy in the public sector.
Yes, we need to persuade the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to include a greater choice of therapies in their recommendations for first-line treatments for common mental health issues. And we are campaigning hard to make this happen.
The obvious need
But high-quality psychotherapy services also require financial commitment from the government. And, in the current climate, the need to widen access to psychotherapy has never been more obvious.
And this investment will only be possible if money allocated for mental health is reaching the frontline.
That’s why we are urging the Chancellor to ringfence mental health funding in this month’s Budget.
Rhetoric from the government around parity of esteem is welcome, and helps the battle against stigma. However, those words mean nothing unless they are backed up by concrete action to address the mental health crisis we face in the here and now.
Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson has opened up about her mental health.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, she revealed her battle with depression started when she was 17.
She also described in her book ‘Yes She Can’ that she started to self-harm.
According to the Sunday Times, she was diagnosed with clinical depression a year later, but said the medication meant she had ‘dark, terrible dreams’ and ‘couldn’t tell what was real’.
Davidson said she combated her mental health issues by exercising regularly, moderating her alcohol intake, going back to church, and ‘most importantly to me, I threw away my pills.’
Davidson hasn’t suffered a significant depressive episode since 2006, but monitors her mental health closely.
When asked whether she would consider the role of prime minister Davidson said: ‘You have to want it, and I don’t want to be prime minister.’ This follows previous comment she made in 2016, when she described the role of being PM as ‘the loneliest job in the world’.
Universities minister calls for student wellbeing to be a top priority
Universities minister Sam Gyimah has written to university heads, calling for students mental health to be a top priority.
According to The Independent, as freshers week gets underway Gyimah urged vice chancellors, to ‘not only commit to “student’s education” – but to also focus on the “immediate” change of student mental health in the sector.’
The universities ministers call comes as ten students from the University of Bristol and two students from the University of West England (UWE) have reportedly passed away in the last two years. Some of these deaths have been confirmed as suicides.
In his letter Gyimah writes: ‘With the new academic year upon us, I’m sure you would agree that good mental health and wellbeing underpins successful participation and attainment.’
‘Collectively, we must prioritise the wellbeing and mental health of our students – there is no negotiation on this. To make this happen, leadership from the top is essential.’
Early this year the government announced a University Mental Health Charter in Bristol, it is set to open in 2019/2020 and establish high standards in promoting students mental health. But the universities minster believes ‘we should be acting now.’
He added: ‘I expect high standards to be set within the Charter that will require each university’s senior leadership team to deliver positive change.’
How can we recognise the signs someone is struggling with their mental health?
Craig Martin, the global director for mental health and suicide prevention at Movember Foundation, spoke to Coach Magazineabout how help someone who is struggling with their mental health.
Martin says: ‘Some common signs include a general sense that they are not their normal selves. Specifically, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, increased stress, and a diminished interest in the things and activities they normally enjoy’.
An increase in sleep, alcohol and drug consumption and changes of appetite are some physical signs to look out for.
Martin explains that there are multiple symptoms that can show someone is struggling. He encourages the habit of meaningful conversations to keep in tune with those around you.
How do you approach a person who may be struggling? Martin says to ask a question, ‘is everything ok?’ From this point, listen. Do not try to problem solve, encourage action and applaud them for having courage to speak up.
Recommend concentrating on wellness and speaking to an expert. Make sure to check in every week or so to see how they are doing. ‘You do not need to be an expert to start a life-changing conversation.’
2,000 NHS mental health staff quit every month– According to figures from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 2,000 mental health nurses, therapists and psychiatrists are quitting their posts each month in the NHS in England.
Although men are still three times more likely to kill themselves than women by Suicide, those numbers are slowly decreasing and there have been some strong campaigns to highlight and address the issues faced by men, (the campaign against living miserably to name but one).
The Samaritans 2017 Suicide statistics report, noted that Suicides amongst women have been slowly increasing since 2014. They caution against jumping to conclusions about the reasons for this, as it could be a natural fluctuation in the statistics. However, there have been a number of concerns raised recently by statistics regarding the number of young women who self-harm, and self-harm is a clear risk factor in potential suicidality.
There are many individual stress factors faced by young women around the desire for perfection, fuelled by unrealistic portrayals of life through social media, and that the lifestyles of our parents are for the first time in modern history less rather than more achievable.
Elizabeth Scowcroft, in a Telegraph article, notes that a lot of the issues faced by men can also be faced by women. Women might find it difficult to talk about their issues as well.
In my experience as a psychotherapist, although there are differences between the genders, usually cultural, there is much more that is similar than different, and women and young women in particular can also need a great deal of help in figuring out their emotional internal lives.
Alice Cole-King a psychiatrist who has held numerous posts working towards suicide prevention, says that in her experience a key component of helping clients is compassion. She says this is not just kindness, but the sensitivity to the distress of others and the motivation to do something about it. This involves the ability to tolerate distress and be empathic in the face of, what in the case of suicidality can be really high.
This is why I think psychotherapy can be so helpful. Psychotherapists are drawn to and want to work with peoples distress, and their unique training with its mandatory personal therapy, can make them well placed to offer this sensitivity in the face of this distress.
As a supervisor once said to me, all we can say, in essence, to the suicidal patient is, we cannot stop you taking your own life, but we can offer you a genuine space to talk and explore in a sensitive but honest way, what it is that is leading you to feel like this.